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Introducing Ensenada

Ensenada, 108km south of the border, is hedonistic Tijuana’s cosmopolitan sister. The city has a quirky mix of just-off-the-boat cruise shippers, drive-by tourists from Cali, tourists from mainland Mexico and seen-it-all locals. In case you’ve forgotten you’re in Mexico (what with all those US dollars and the English menus), just look up: a Mexican flag, so large it’s probably visible from space, flutters proudly over the tourist zone. Wander Avenida López Mateos (Calle 1a) and you’ll find almost anything: ceramics, hammocks, textiles, jewelry…side by side with tasteless T-shirts, raunchy gifts and a host of items you definitely wouldn’t give grandma for the holidays. Some of Mexico’s best wines come from this region; if you’re an oenophile, don’t miss the Ruta del Vino and its vineyards and museums.

Outside the tourist zone the prices drop, food gets traditional and hotels become cheap, but Calle 2a – unlit and seedy – is worth avoiding after dark. Singer Jim Morrison, of Doors fame, used to sip tequila and watch surfers 11km to the north at San Miguel.

Ensenada was the capital of Baja territory from 1882 to 1915, but the capital shifted to Mexicali during the revolution. After the revolution the city catered to ‘sin’ industries until the federal government outlawed gambling in the 1930s…but judging from the strip clubs, peep shows and bars, sin still goes on today as it did in days of old.